After 32 planned missions and a quarter century of service, the Atlantis space shuttle landing happened today in Florida after the ship completed a space station assembly mission.
Named after a two-masted sailing ship from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that was in operation from 1930 to 1966, space shuttle Atlantis made its maiden voyage on October 3, 1985. Its missions included the launch of the Galileo interplanetary probe to Jupiter in 1989 on STS-34, and STS-37, which included the Gamma Ray Observatory as its payload in 1991.
“And Houston, Atlantis, we have wheels stopped,” commander Kenneth Ham radioed after Atlantis rolled to a stop, marking a successful space shuttle landing.
“For you and your crew, that was a suiting end to an incredible mission,” astronaut Charles Hobaugh replied from mission control. “I’m sure the station crew members hated to see you leave, but we’re glad to have you back. You guys executed flawlessly and not only that, you had a great time doing it. That was very evident from the ground. Everybody down here really enjoyed working with you.”
The final mission duration for shuttle Atlantis was 11 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes, and 2 seconds. The voyage spanned 186 complete orbits around the earth, for a total of 4.9 million miles since its May 14 blastoff.
There are only two flights remaining on NASA’s schedule, and with shuttle Atlantis ending its run, Discovery is up next in September or October, followed by Endeavour late this year or early in 2011. Both launches will mark their respective final mission.